Once Upon A Time in the East: A Story of Growing Up

Once Upon A Time in the East: A Story of Growing Up

‘Ah, Xiaolu, you are so big now!’ Then I heard my grandmother speaking behind the woman, ‘This is your mother, call her mother!’ I stared at the woman, perplexed.Xiaolu Guo meets her parents for the first time when she is six. They are strangers to her. When Xiaolu is born her parents hand her over to a childless peasant couple in the mountains. Aged two, and suffering fro...

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Title:Once Upon A Time in the East: A Story of Growing Up
Author:Xiaolu Guo
Rating:
ISBN:147352430X
Edition Language:English
Format Type:ebook

Once Upon A Time in the East: A Story of Growing Up Reviews

  • Lauren
    Jan 10, 2017

    A harsh and electric autobiography/Chinese family history that deepened my appreciation of Xiaolu Guo's excellent novels. Highly recommend.

  • Wsclai
    Feb 05, 2017

    I have been a fan of Guo and this memoir doesn't disappoint me.

    On one hand, it is modern Chinese history told from a personal perspective. Guo's story reveals the absurdities of the communist regime and unfairness of a dominant patriarchal society to a girls/women.

    On the other hand, it is Guo's life journey which is full of touching moments. Her distant yet intimate relationship with her grandmother has moved me to tears many times. The plight of her grandmother is indeed tragically common in r

    I have been a fan of Guo and this memoir doesn't disappoint me.

    On one hand, it is modern Chinese history told from a personal perspective. Guo's story reveals the absurdities of the communist regime and unfairness of a dominant patriarchal society to a girls/women.

    On the other hand, it is Guo's life journey which is full of touching moments. Her distant yet intimate relationship with her grandmother has moved me to tears many times. The plight of her grandmother is indeed tragically common in rural China until today.

    I am glad that Guo has seized her chance to go to Britain and became a writer. China would never give her the freedom to do what she aspires to. I am deeply impressed by her will, which transformed her from a Chinese who knew little English to an author of English novels. That certainly is a tremendous achievement.

    Below are several of my favourite quotes from the book.

    1. [On Confucius] "So he was just another desperate long-term unemployed man. Since no one took him on, he had to inflict his knowledge on the young, amassing his 72 disciples. It seems his main concern was to exercise authority over others. In that respect he was like all the other power-seekers. Seen in this light, it's pretty obvious why Confucianism has been so favoured by the emperors of China, including leaders of the Communist Party."

    2. [On film-making in China] "We in China had undergone a proletarian revolution under Mao, and yet there was barely a free thought allowed in our heads. The layers of self-censorship we had to engage in before the official censorship came to get us had already strangled any creative work. In China, creativity meant compromise. Creativity no longer bore its original and intended meaning. Creativity under a Communist regime requires the struggle to survive under such rigid rules, and for all creative thoughts to be kept to oneself."

    3. [On relationship with her mother] "Silence was the way we communicated, a family tradition carried down to my brother and me from my parents and their parents. My father's silence after his throat cancer operation was just another version. Silence was common in Chinese culture, it served a purpose. Never mention the tragedies, and never question them. Move on, get on with life, since you couldn't change the fact of your birth."

    It is a quick read and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

  • Richie
    Feb 02, 2017

    Xiaolu Guo's novels are spiritually satisfying. Hard, bitter and gritty at times, but a journey that transports you to a foreign land and way of thinking. In short, I love her writing.

    I have read all her novels, and you can see all of them in this memoir. It will remind you of the places she has already taken you, but with clarification into the actual facts. Village of Stone is much of her actual childhood: life by the water in the small town Shitang, her abusive upbringing, and leaving for lif

    Xiaolu Guo's novels are spiritually satisfying. Hard, bitter and gritty at times, but a journey that transports you to a foreign land and way of thinking. In short, I love her writing.

    I have read all her novels, and you can see all of them in this memoir. It will remind you of the places she has already taken you, but with clarification into the actual facts. Village of Stone is much of her actual childhood: life by the water in the small town Shitang, her abusive upbringing, and leaving for life in a communist compound in Wenling. A Concise Dictionary is her adult life: life in London, her major relatinship, learning English. Twenty Fragments can also been seen very prominently.

    I think one of the most amazing things that happened to her is that she was chosen for a spot in the Beijing Film Academy, 1 of 11 out of over 7000 who applied. This is what got her to where she is today.

    She also intertwines Chinese fables which gives it a nice little narrative that carries it to the end.

    "UFO in Her Eyes" is one of my favorite books, and I cannot wait to see what she produces next!

  • Claudia
    Jan 29, 2017

    4.5 Stars

  • Laura
    Feb 07, 2017
  • Viki Cheung
    Feb 14, 2017

    An immensely powerful, personal memoir - highly recommended.

  • Bettie☯
    Feb 11, 2017

    Description:

    Description:

    Episode 1: For the young Xiaolu, her first home was the fishing village of Shitang where she lived with her grandparents.

    Episode 2: Xiaolu's grandfather's struggle to provide for his family has tragic consequences.

    Episode 3: The young Xiaolu has a new home in Wenling, where she is reunited with her parents.

    Episode 4: Xiaolu is encouraged by her father to become a poet.

    Episode 5: Xiaolu determines upon a new career path.

  • Barnaby
    Feb 15, 2017

    Fascinating memoir. I particularly enjoyed the parts where Guo describes why she decided to read Film Studies at university. Intriguing and beautifully written.

  • Sue Kichenside
    Feb 16, 2017

    The opening chapter of this memoir describes the hardscrabble life of Shitang, a rocky, windswept little fishing village on a peninsula at the easternmost reaches of China. As a baby, Xiaolu was given away by her parents to a desperately poor childless couple living up in the mountains. Unable to provide sufficient sustenance for themselves, let alone a toddler, they bring her (now aged two) back down to the village, to live with her grandparents where she remains until the ag

    The opening chapter of this memoir describes the hardscrabble life of Shitang, a rocky, windswept little fishing village on a peninsula at the easternmost reaches of China. As a baby, Xiaolu was given away by her parents to a desperately poor childless couple living up in the mountains. Unable to provide sufficient sustenance for themselves, let alone a toddler, they bring her (now aged two) back down to the village, to live with her grandparents where she remains until the age of seven.

    Seen through the eyes of a child, the tough life of the tiny port is all she knows. Xiaolu has no knowledge of the outside world – not even the next town – though she does have intense curiosity. A determined and positive little girl, she is quick to find splashes of excitement amidst her pitiful existence: her thrill at meeting a group of art students on the beach, the delight when her stooped, bound-foot grandmother brings her the last remaining drops of a melted ice lolly. While reading, one thought goes through one’s mind the entire time: how on earth did Xiaolu Guo get from there to here?

    Gradually, we find out and it’s an extraordinary story of resilience and perseverance.

    This is an astonishing memoir: remarkably frank and open, distilled with clarity and never self-serving or self-pitying. If there’s any justice in the world, this account will rank alongside Jung Chang’s Wild Swans as a book that opens eyes as to the real nature of China’s innate dichotomies: a state hell-bent on modernity whilst cherry-picking the traditions it chooses to retain, a state manically chasing wealth and superpower status whilst paying lip-service to socialism, a state from whose stultifying censorship Xiaolu Guo could not wait to escape.

    Footnote: During the time I was reading this book, I watched a television documentary about Christian Dior. The head of the haute couture division described the challenges of seeking out new clients with the new wealth. As the skinny models strutted their stuff down the catwalk, the camera cut to the tiny, terribly select audience and there, in the front row, sat a row of plump Chinese ‘matrons’ all dolled up to the nines, their faces rigid with de rigueur cosmetic surgery. A snap-shot of the new China that seemed to capture just how fast things have changed.

  • Christine
    Feb 28, 2017

    Frank and holds no punches. She truly owns her experience and is an unapologetic writer. Inspiring.